Manchester United and Arsenal look to stake their claim in what looks to be a wide-open race for the Premier League's top four when they square off this weekend.
With leaders Liverpool and champions Manchester City solidly perched atop the table, the remaining usual suspects for the Champions League berths, United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham, have stumbled at times to allow some new faces to emerge.
Fourth-placed Arsenal are joined by Leicester and West Ham on 11 points, one more than Bournemouth and three ahead of Tottenham, United and Chelsea and three other sides on eight points.
With so many teams bunched together, Monday's showdown between United and Arsenal at Old Trafford is a proverbial ‘six-pointer.' "It will be very difficult and very tough so we need to achieve the best performance," Arsenal manager Unai Emery said following Tuesday's 5-0 League Cup win over Nottingham Forest. "We need to build a competitive team with a strong mentality at home and away."
Arsenal showed grit last weekend by coming from behind with 10 men to beat Aston Villa 3-2 ahead of their League Cup stroll past Forest.
United, meanwhile, has won just one of five in the league, and scraped through the third round of the League Cup by beating League One's Rochdale 5-3 on penalties on Wednesday. Tottenham look to shake their early-season cobwebs when they host Southampton. Spurs have won just one of their last five league games and were unceremoniously dumped out of the League Cup mid-week by League Two's Colchester United in a shoot-out. "I'd say it's been disappointing," striker Harry Kane told Sky Sports. "I don't think there's any hiding behind that. "To only win two games out of our first seven is not the standards that we've set in previous years. "But there are plenty of games to turn that around, starting with the game on Saturday."
Liverpool hopes to extend its record winning streak when traveling to Sheffield United in Saturday's early match.
The Reds have set a club mark by winning 15 in a row in the league, including six in a row to open this season, are five points clear of Man City at the top. City rebounded from their shock loss at Norwich two weeks ago with an 8-0 hammering of Watford, their biggest-ever Premier League win and one shy of the league record. They next visit Everton, who have won just two of six and sit in 14th place. "It is not the moment for anyone to hide," Everton manager Marco Silva said. "We have to show stronger character, personality. "It is a moment for us to go and play football and to take responsibility as well."
Chelsea host Brighton, Leicester are home to Newcastle, West Ham visit Bournemouth, Aston Villa face Burnley, Norwich travel to Crystal Palace and Wolverhampton welcome Watford in the weekend's other games.